A Navy Vet made former President Obama’s list of favorite music of 2022, next to names like Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar. Zach Bryan, a rising country singer/songwriter, served eight years in the U.S. Navy before discharging honorably in 2021 to pursue music. He has surged in popularity the last few years and will tour the country he defended this spring.
“I joined the Navy as a 17-year-old kid,” he wrote on Instagram. “It’s all I lived, slept and ate for eight years, it’s been all I knew since I was basically a snot-nosed child. It made a man out of me, truly. I ran with some big dogs, saw a few fights, out-drank the best of them, but more importantly, got to serve alongside some of the best men and women I was ever blessed enough to meet.”
Bryan was born in Japan while his Navy parents were deployed, and later moved to Oologah, Oklahoma before high school. His grandfather also served in the Navy.
“If it was my decision, I would never get out of the world’s greatest Navy, but here I am and they kindly honorably discharged me to go play some music. Can’t tell if I’m a coward or if I’m chasing a dream, but regardless, the best eight years of my life were spent serving the best country in the whole damn world,” he wrote.
The 26-year-old served as an aviation ordnanceman stationed in Washington and Florida, and did tours in Bahrain and Djibouti.
He wrote songs in his Navy barracks and shot the video for “Heading South” on his phone in humid 95 degree heat, which drew attention on social media. He is known for his raspy voice, a mix of classic folk melody and outlaw country with an edge.
His 2019 debut album, “DeAnn,” was dedicated to his late mother, who died in 2016 at age 49. It was her middle name.
“I think my mom dying really solidified the darkness in life to me,” he told the New York Times. “It opened that thing in you that’s like, ‘Hey, be a man now.’”
Since that album, he signed with Warner Records and has released several chart-topping tracks, including “Something in the Orange,” which rose to number 2 on Billboard’s Hot Rock and Alternative Songs, and Hot Country Songs chart. The song earned him his first Grammy nomination.
Despite his fast success, Bryan continues to give back to the military community. Before his Veterans Day concert at Gallagher Square at Petco Park in San Diego, he announced that all of the proceeds from the show would be donated to those who served and now suffer from PTSD, and their families.
“(Music was) never really been something I planned on pursuing. It’s just kinda been something to ease my pain over the years, and now it’s coming to this,” Bryan told indie country YouTuber Grady Smith in a 2019 interview.
He released a surprise album on Christmas Eve titled, “All My Homies Hate Ticketmaster,” to draw attention to the trend of surging ticket prices to concerts. In the social media announcement, he said he will play a limited number of headline shows next year where he’ll do all he can "to make prices as cheap as possible and to prove to people tickets don't have to cost $450 to see a good and honest show."
Bryan’s spring tour kicks off April 15 in Texas.